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House Rules

Apr 18, 14 House Rules

Almost every game group has their own list of house rules they play by. House rules are additional rules that you introduce to your game that are not found in the core rulebook. They can be things you have come up with yourself or alternate/additional rules found in game supplements. This can include alternate ways of determining your character’s starting attributes, new ways that certain abilities work, or even all-new options for your characters. The level of comfort with and acceptance of house rules varies from group to group, as well as player to player and, if included in your game, are something that needs to be discussed with your players at the beginning of a campaign, as well as whenever a new player joins into the game.

No matter what type of rule you are thinking about including, you need to consider any possible balance issues it might cause. Does this rule favor one type of character over others? Is it a rule that can be too easily exploited by any other combination of rules or abilities? Will it make any other rules or abilities obsolete? Most games – not all admittedly – are very concerned with balance, and this is how you can usually tell that a rule (house or not) is unbalanced, as nearly every character will either lean towards or away from it. For example, if you include a house rule in your Pathfinder game that makes sorcerers greater than wizards in nearly all ways, you can expect to see a great many more sorcerers than you do wizards. As they stand, the two classes are fairly balanced with each having strengths the other does not, despite the two of them basically being the same in that they use arcane magic.

Overall, I am very hesitant to include house rules in my games. This is not to say that I do not use them. A number of the optional rules found in Run & Gun I plan to include in my future Shadowrun games, my groups use a number of as-of-yet unpublished (in English) rules for Anima: Beyond Fantasy found in the Core Exxet supplement, and I have a whole document of “fixes” to Scion that we use whenever we roll the dice for that game. Still, whenever a new house rule is proposed, I am initially resistant to it. Before including any new rule, I want to know why the player/Gamemaster feels the rule should be imposed, what rules – if any – that it will replace or overrule, and if there is any way for that rule to be exploited in some way. If, after looking at all of these things, the proposed house rule sounds okay, then I am all for giving it a try.

The most important thing you can consider about any house rule is “why?” Why do you feel this new rule should be included? If it is because your feel that it could greatly improve the game overall, then the rule will most likely be an improvement. If, on the other hand, it is because you want a certain character to be able to do something they otherwise could not do, you are likely looking at the house rule for the wrong reasons. Just like house rules can enhance a game, they can also break one. Too many bad experiences with them have left me pretty paranoid regarding their inclusion. Still, every game is its own and no other groups are playing it. So, if certain house rules work for your group and your games, then by all means, include as many as you like.

As long as everyone is having fun, that is all that matters.

As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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About 

Joshua is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist, and avid table-top gamer who has been in love with the hobby ever since it was first introduced to him by a friend in 1996. Currently he acts as the Gamemaster in three separate games and is also a player in a fourth. When he is not busy rolling dice to save the world or destroying the hopes and dreams of his players, he is usually found either with his nose in a book or working on his own. He has degrees in English, Creative Writing, and Economics.

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  • Alex

    I’m having a similar issue, concerning shadowrun. I’m using the ruleset for 4th edition (currently 1/4 in reading the 5th), and I liked how the grenade/missile/rocket rule about the 3 hit touching exactly the desired spot (otherwise, the scatter for the rocket launcher makes it impossible to be worthwhile).

    On the fly, I made a ruling and wanted to consolidate it into a houserule. Picture an aerial dogfight, with a cargo helicopter with runners firing at a 400m helicopter, and readying their SMG wielders to fire the missiles mid-air, with wide burst to make sur they hit a few time the rocket to make it explode. I use the “rule of cool”, figure out on the fly thresholds, etc. Would you keep it on the fly? or try finding a ruling / another’s group houserule to rule it? or try to make a cool-headed ruling to use a houserule?